9th Wonder has very vivid memories of Nas’ Illmatic. He was in college at the time, which could have also been Nas’ trajectory, considering he was of traditional college age. 9th was an age peer of Nas’ turned industry peer turned collaborator, but like most of us, he’s also a fan. His favorite track off Illmatic is the hyper-classic “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” and for him the song (much like the entire album) is remarkable in its replay value. 9th Wonder talks to HipHopDX exclusively about the song, and where he was-slash-what he was doing when Illmatic first hit the streets.
I was in college at the time — I was a Freshman in 1993, so there wasn’t a lot of buzz about Nas in the Fall of ’93. [Snoop Dogg’s] Doggystyle was out, A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, and Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, [Black Moon’s] Enta Da Stage, so there wasn’t a lot of buzz. When “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” dropped — first of all, it was the use of the Michael Jackson sample, “Human Nature” — and that kind of caught your ear right off. Then, it was released with a remix as well, the “Nah Nah Nah” [Large Professor Remix]. So here was this kid who it wasn’t Tribe, it wasn’t Wu-Tang, it wasn’t Snoop. It was just something different. Very introspective rhymes, reminiscent of Rakim, but not really. It was poetry, forreal. And so, to hear all of that together — and I really love beats — that is what pulled me into that particular song. That was what made me listen to the album, and I like other songs on the album, it’s just that song takes you back to the beginning. It always takes me back to the beginning of his career. It’s definitely not his best song I don’t think, but it’s my favorite because it opened me up to him automatically. Nas was our age, and it was amazing how someone our age sounded like someone who was 20 years our senior, with the way he was talking and the way he was rhyming. It was amazing. That was a crazy day when we went to buy Illmatic. I think we bought that and Shyheim The Rugged Child’s AKA The Rugged Child at the same time. We listened to “On And On” the single and that was it. But then we put in Illmatic, and we never took it out. We never took it out.